My name is Aqeel Abdulla, a theatre academic and practitioner, and an honorary research fellow at the Department of Drama, University of Exeter. I first came to the UK from Syria in 2009 on an international scholarship to pursue my MA in Drama, and then came back on another scholarship for my PhD in Drama, which I completed in in Exeter in 2016. I taught as an associate lecturer in Drama, and visiting lecturer in Human Geography since 2017, and I am now teaching in Medical Humanities, and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.
This month, September, I established a participatory community theatre company in Exeter called Yalla (Arabic for ‘let’s go’). The company’s pilot project- funded by the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant- will be to run 2 drama groups in Exeter, one for women who don’t speak English as a first language, and one for kids aged 8-11 from different national, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. The aim of the company is to offer different social groups in Exeter who experience isolation and exclusion for multiple reasons a space through which they can contribute to the cultural scene in Exeter and share the richness of their experiences as individuals/groups.
I am a volunteer with Refugee Support Devon, Exeter City of Sanctuary, and Exeter Communities Together. I am undertaking training as ‘community developer’ through Exeter Communities Together with a view to run/manage projects aimed at boosting the participation of BME and migrant groups in the social and cultural life in Exeter.
It’s clear from all above why I’m interested in the Loneliness Network! Countering social isolation and exclusion through cultural initiatives- theatre in particular- is at the heart of my research, teaching, and theatre practice, and this network is a rare opportunity to learn more about the subject of social isolation and exclusion, and methods to counter them from people with a rich and diverse academic/professional backgrounds.
I am a PhD candidate working on the relationship between time and care in late-twentieth century and contemporary illness narratives, as part of Waiting Times: a multi-stranded research project on the temporalities of healthcare at the University of Exeter and Birkbeck, University of London. I am interested in how the durational temporalities that unfold as part of the dying process might relate to offers and practices of care and particularly how non-familial modes of kinship might ameliorate intense isolation and solitude at the end of life.
I am a social psychologist specialising on social stigma and social relationships. I have an organizational psychology ‘side’ and have looked at loneliness at work, as well as in relation to other issues, but my main focus is on disadvantaged identities. I tend to use a variety of quantitative methods (surveys, longitudinal studies, laboratory and online experiments, behavioural observation), but have also used some qualitative methods and am keen to learn about other ways of doing things. I am one of the PIs of the Wellcome Centre and one of the researchers of the Wellcome Centre’s Beacon project on loneliness and keen to work in inter and transdisciplinary ways, though I am not going to pretend that is easy or self-evident! I look forward to attend as many events as possible!
Harry works for Devon Communities Together, an independent charity working on a wide range of community development work across Devon. We are working on a project, known as ‘Devon Highlights’ and supported by National Lottery’s Community Fund and HM Government, to support older people (aged 55+) who may be at risk of loneliness and isolation. Highlights groups run across six different communities in Devon – Chulmleigh, Totnes, Paignton, Exmouth, Teignmouth and Holsworthy. Highlights sessions are free to attend and all refreshments are provided! Group activities are shaped by the members themselves, according to their interests or hobbies. This could include arts and crafts, board games, nature walks, interesting guest speakers, etc.
As Part of the Exeter Loneliness Network, I seek to bring on-the-ground insight and gain from the experience of members. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch (01392 248919; Harry.Bonnell@devoncommunities.org.uk).
Colin Bray, Service Development Manager, Health and Wellbeing, Libraries Unlimited
I lead and coordinate the health and wellbeing offer across the 54 public libraries in Devon and Torbay. I am interested in having a better understanding of how public spaces such as libraries engage with people to reduce and mitigate loneliness alongside opportunities to work with partner organisations and academics to improve practical outcomes.
Lauren is an inter-disciplinary researcher whose work may be best described as evolutionary psychology, with links to anthropology, behavioural ecology, and cognitive neuroscience. Using expertise in social network analysis, Lauren’s work is among the first to show that social connections translate to survival benefits in primates other than humans, a result that suggests that humans are not alone in our need for friends, and that friendship evolved. Lauren has written about the evolutionary basis of friendly relationships for New Scientist, has delivered a TED talk on this topic, and is featured in the forthcoming book by Lydia Denworth, Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.
Sarah Campbell, Associate Director for Arts and Culture
I joined the University of Exeter in January 2019, in a new role to co-direct the delivery of the Arts and Culture strategy. Our small team leads on a number of creative collaborations, such as our annual Creative Fellowships and Arts Commissioning programmes, as well as termly Creative Dialogues talks and supporting the Creative Exchange residencies at ESI, Penryn. The aim of the strategy is to ‘activate creativity’, and we are looking to support teaching, research and student experience, as well as developing networks across the city and region. Before joining the university, I worked in gallery education for 16 years in cultural venues across the UK (Edinburgh, Walsall, Cambridge and London). I am passionate about creative and design processes and audience-centric engagement. I joined the Loneliness Network because I want to know more about the subject, as well as the interdisciplinary approaches taken by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.
I have recently returned to the University after a 4 year gap working elsewhere in Exeter and now work as Centre Administrator for TARC (Tax Administration Research Centre) in the Business School. I previously worked at the University for 12 years in a variety of Professional Services role and have recent graduated with a BA (Hons) History Degree with the Open University.
My interest in loneliness comes from a professional staff perspective, rather than academic. What I have discovered since my return is the increasing centralisation and streamlining of professional services functions across the institution and unless you can make connections, find that ‘right person’ to talk to and network, technology could lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness. My role means that I work very much on my own and although not lonely, I can see that University’s reliance on technology could impact on one’s mental wellbeing and subsequent inability on to carry out one’s role.
The reliance on technology for students is also something I familiar with. Studying for a degree through distance learning was at times an isolating experience. There is an assumption that students have the latest IT equipment at home in order to participate in online tutorials and access documentation in various formats and for those students where IT is self-taught, this could at sometimes be an isolating and frustrating experience.
I am also interested in understanding how visitors/students from other cultures feel when they arrive at the University and the sense of loneliness as they get to grips with a very different culture. This is particularly important in my role as we have a number of international students with us in the Centre. I want to make them feel part of our research community and as such be aware of cultural sensitivities and so being able to hear from colleagues what they do to help with this, would be really helpful.
I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Centre for Geography & Environmental Science in Penryn. I currently work on two European-funded projects which bring together Housing Associations and the voluntary sector in Cornwall to help those in financial crisis or with long term health conditions to move into work. Broadly my research interests focus on the intersection of mental ill-health, inequality and everyday life. In particular I am interested in food practices, sensory and embodied experiences of food and how food features in everyday life. I use innovative qualitative methods to look at these issues within the messy contexts of embodied life. I work with voluntary organisations to understand how they can best support people in a context of austerity.
I’m interested in the loneliness network because social isolation and exclusion are key themes throughout my work, for example I have looked at the ways in which social isolation acts as a barrier to eating well, especially for vulnerable groups.
Luna is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities and Philosophy and Deputy Director of the Liberal Arts Programme at the University of Exeter. Her research is primarily in the areas of applied phenomenology, philosophy of embodiment, philosophy of medicine and medical humanities (especially through philosophy and literature). She has an ongoing research project called “Shame and Medicine” funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award which investigates negative self-conscious emotions in healthcare contexts. She is also co-Investigator on the Wellcome Trust-funded project “Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures”. Luna Dolezal’s publications include the monograph The Body and Shame: Phenomenology, Feminism and the Socially Shaped Body (Lexington Books, 2015), and the co-edited books Body/Self/Other: The Phenomenology of Social Encounters (SUNY Press, 2017) and New Feminist Perspectives on Embodiment (Palgrave, 2018). Luna’s interest in loneliness arises from her on-going research interests in shame and belonging, which are inherently connected to experiences of loneliness and social isolation.
Nicola has a PhD in Social Anthropology, with a long-term interest in the politics and practice of community organising. She is now Knowledge Guru at Devon Community Foundation (DCF), an independent organisation working with philanthropic funds to support community wellbeing and initiative across the county. We are interested in exploring the parameters of collective (alongside, but distinct from individual wellbeing). DCF are programme managers for Wellbeing Exeter, a citywide social prescribing and community development programme (which also works with university students) working to reconnect individuals with their local community, and at neighbourhood level to stimulate and support people to come together in inclusive ways. We would love to hear from academics who share our interests and would like to explore their ideas in real-world contexts.
I’m a researcher based at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at Exeter University. I’m interested in health inequalities and in engaged research working alongside communities and individuals to better understand the complex issues affecting health and wellbeing. I have a professional background in youth and community work and previously worked for 17 years with young people and families in different settings.
My current research project is focussing on inequalities in access to end-of-life care, using an engaged approach to better understand the ways in which end-of-life care services may be failing to meet the needs of those living on a very low income. The research will explore the notion of ‘a good death’, working in partnership with community organisations, health practitioners and those with lived experience to sensitively explore the ways that individuals talk about and experience life-limiting illness and dying. Given the social isolation and stigma experienced by many people living with terminal illness, I’m keen to forge links via the loneliness network with others interested in looking at issues related to low-income communities and end-of-life.
I am a part time PhD student, part time post-doctoral research associate and part time associate lecturer at the University of Exeter. My research interests are centred on group processes, attitude and behaviour change (in particular relation to community change and sustainability), social influence, loneliness, and communication. More specifically, I look at the impact of social identification on behaviour change in communities, the role of identity in empowering communities to take ownership over change, and the socio-psychological factors involved in facilitating this change to help create sustainable communities. I adopt a social identity approach as my theoretical framework, and a specific social cure stance to my research.
To progress this line of research, I am keen to develop this understanding of change in terms of identity loss, and the impacts this has on loneliness. That is, understanding the effects of ‘losing’ group-based identities and the potential impact on loneliness following displacement (at this stage I use ‘displacement’ in its broadest term, this could be in terms of urban regeneration, or immigration, migrant camps, forces leavers, retirement etc.,).
Additionally, I take a flexible mixed methods approach to my research adopting both qualitative and quantitative methods as well as completing participatory action research directly with community members.
Iza is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Exeter. She specializes in anthropology of Japan, particularly meaning in later life, wellbeing and creativity. Her book publications include Values of Happiness: Toward an Anthropology of Purpose in Life, co edited with Harry Walker (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and a monograph Meaning in Life: Tales from Aging Japan (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), which examines the experience of aging among older people in Osaka. She is currently leading an AHRC funded project The Work of Art in Contemporary Japan: Inner and outer worlds of creativity. Her recent work on emotions at the end of life explores loneliness alongside hope and gratitude.
I initiated my academic journey with a BA degree in Sports Management. During my first year of undergraduate studies, I dealt with depression and loneliness, which almost ended in a suicide attempt. This life event (despite the negative first impression) belongs to one of the most valued in my life. Incidentally, it was this experience which motivated me to commence a Master’s degree in Enterprise Management to learn how to create an enterprise which could help young people in similar situations. During the research for my enterprise plan, I, nevertheless, realised that the perspective I am proposing is not vastly studied. Henceforth, I decided to embark upon my research on loneliness by studying a PhD in Psychology at Exeter University.
It is kind of a blessing to have an opportunity to engage with people driven by similar interests, so I am looking forward to attending events organised by this network.
Joel is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Exeter. He works on various issues in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of cognitive science, including emotions, social cognition, and psychopathology. He also does some work on comparative philosophy and philosophy of music.
I am a social psychologist with an interest in social, psychological and environmental factors that impact on health and well-being in later life, particularly among those with age-related health conditions. Previously working on the IDEAL programme, we examined loneliness among both those living with dementia, but also among friends and family caring for people with dementia. Currently I work on the Stroke Association funded CoGS ‘Community Groups for Post-Stroke Support’ study and we are looking at how peer-support groups can support people after stroke. Health conditions like dementia and stroke can lead to huge changes in work-based and social activities, as well as affecting peoples’ confidence and ability to get out and about. This may put people with these conditions and those caring for them at greater risk of becoming isolated and lonely. In my research going forward, I aim to better understand the links between age-related health conditions and loneliness, as well as looking at effective ways of supporting people
My name is Manel Lemmouchi, I am a doctoral student based in the school of education at the University of Sheffield. My Ph.D. project is about the stories of loneliness among university students. I am looking more specifically into stories related to the educational settings. How do students develop a sense of belongingness or detachment from the space and others around them is my specific interest. University is the big setting, classrooms, lecture theaters, libraries, student union are the smaller sites. I am also interested in how loneliness is conceptualized across students’ previous educational journey. I have worked with the Centre for Loneliness Studies at the University of Sheffield in 2018/2019, where we have looked at the experiences of loneliness in relation to bereavement and health conditions. Even though it is an emotionally challenging topic to undertake, I have so far enjoyed learning about every bit of loneliness.
Natalie is a Playwright and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West www.dreadnoughtsouthwest.org.uk . Her writing credits include for Dreadnought, Oxygen celebrating the centenary of the Great 1913 Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage and most recently a South West tour of The Cause; published by Methuen & Co. Dreadnought also produces the Rebellious Sounds Archive. The UK’s first archive of women’s stories of activism and Occupy The Airwaves; an annual 16 hour community radio broadcast on International Women’s Day with Phonic FM in Exeter. Other plays include; Coasting and Wild Doves for Bristol Old Vic, Rift for Brewhouse Theatre Taunton, Scottish Kiss for Paines Plough’s, ‘Come to Where I’m From’ at Bristol Old Vic, Metal Remains for Theatre West, Through the Wardrobe for Exeter Northcott’s Community Company. Blessed is currently receiving script development support from the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh as part of their Open Submissions programme. The Sound is undergoing development at part of an ACE funded Project Grant at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, alongside work queering the RAMM in Exeter with Dr Jana Funke from the University of Exeter. Natalie is also one of three artists currently collaborating with the Wellcome Trust Centre at Exeter University and the Northcott Theatre, Exeter for a pilot project on loneliness. You can find out more about Natalie’s work as an individual artist here; www.nataliemcgrath.net
Nia Morrish and Professor Antonieta Medina-Lara
Nia and Antonieta are based at the Health Economics Group in the College of Medicine and Health. They are Economists/Health Economists who are interested in understanding and the measurement of loneliness and its impact to economic outcomes such as absenteeism and presentism, health outcomes and health and social care. Antonieta is an Associate Professor and one of her main research themes is how best to measure well-being (including loneliness) taking into account the different stages within individual’s life span. Nia has recently been awarded a NIHR pre-doctoral research fellowship to look into loneliness and its impact on health and social care. She also brings her background in History and looks to use historical frameworks in her work on loneliness. Nia and Antonieta use a variety of quantitative methods including discrete choice experiments, surveys, big data, lab studies, lab experiments and they also incorporate qualitative analysis in their work.
Katie recently completed her AHRC-funded PhD, ‘A Game of Crones: Contemporary Hollywood Female Stars, Archetypes of Ageing Femininity, and the Cinematic Fairy Tale Reboot’ from the University of Exeter’s Film Studies department. She is now an Occasional Teacher in the College of Humanities, and is part of the university’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity team. Katie is a trustee for the Exeter-based charity, Magic Carpet, and is particularly interested in disability-related issues, mental health and wellbeing, and fighting ableism; all of which she tweets about from her account: @WhatKTDoes_Now
Siobhan is a Senior Lecturer in Ageing and Family Care in the University of Exeter Medical School. She has qualifications in Psychology, Human Movement Studies, and Higher Education.
Siobhan’s research focuses on the wellbeing of family carers and older adults, with a particular emphasis on suicide, homicide, and self-harm. This research is conducted in collaboration with service providers and community organisations. It has also received extensive media coverage, led to changes in practice and policy, and informed the play Yielding (shortlisted for Best New Australian Work in 2019) and the animated light installation The Invisible Carer. Siobhan’s research is also interdisciplinary and international; she collaborates with colleagues across archaeology, anthropology, history, psychology, nursing, media studies, and law, and across the UK, Europe, the USA, and Australia.
Siobhan is interested in the lived experience of loneliness and isolation in ageing and care. She is also particularly interested in how researchers working on these topics experience and manage the loneliness inherent to preserving participant confidentiality.
Lamprini’s broad research interests lie in the area of intergenerational transmission of psychopathology. She is interested in examining the associations between parental psychopathology and child outcomes, and the mechanisms of risk transmission such as impairments in the parent-child relationship, hostility in the emotional climate at home and marital conflict. She is also particularly interested in investigating how characteristics of the child and the parent and contextual factors work together in predicting resilience or vulnerability in the child.
Lee Snook, Liaison Librarian
I work within the Library Liaison Team and am based in the Forum Library. I support students to make the most effective use of library services, resources and facilities. As a Library we want our services to be welcoming, safe and comfortable for all our students, especially at transition time which can be a bewildering time for students. I am keen to learn from the network and explore changes we can make within the Library to promote student wellbeing in general, as well as those experiencing loneliness as they study away from their established support networks. We recently introduced a Wellbeing & Leisure collection to support students, and would be delighted with any recommendations to boost the collection from fellow Exeter Loneliness Network members.
I am a postdoctoral research fellow working on informing the development of digital technologies, including smart homes, mobile apps, and wearables, by drawing on social psychological and related disciplinary theory, and through working with end users. As a team we use these technologies to conduct out-of-the-lab, behavioural and socio-ethnographic research to make advances in social problems such as: health and wellbeing, privacy and security, social identities and loneliness. In terms of loneliness I am particularly interested in people’s daily experiences of loneliness, and what types of social or non-social strategies ameliorate loneliness.
Sam is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Exeter, based at the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology and at Egenis. He has previously held postdoctoral positions at Edinburgh and Durham. His interests are in the philosophy of mental health and wellbeing, with a specific focus on hallucinations, delusions, trauma and loneliness. He also has a general interest in the way that the mind harnesses social and cultural context to enhance and shape cognition.